3 Cover Letter Crimes—Why You Never Got An Interview


A friend of mine works at a recording studio. Students and recent graduates are constantly reaching out to see if they can intern there. Some of the cover letters are great and she passes them along to the assistant engineer to be brought in for interviews.

Others get deleted.

Why are some job-seekers not even being considered?

Because these applicants are committing cover letter crimes that would send any applicant to “job search jail” (no matter what profession).

To make sure you don’t make any of these same mistakes, she’s shared the top three most annoying cover letter mistakes and what to do instead.

Cover letter crime 1: Not researching the company

One of the most common mistakes applicants make is not doing any research on a company. The recording studio that my friend works at is a voice over studio. They do not produce music. I can’t tell you how many times she has texted me saying, “We got another one.”

She’s referring to students who reach out to her talking about their passion for music and musical engineering.

“It’s pretty obvious they didn’t do any research on us… It really isn’t hard to type our company’s name into Google. Explaining to me how experience in a professional setting will further your dream of becoming a music producer really isn’t a way to convince me to bring you in for an interview. This is not a music studio.”

What to do instead: First of all, let me point out that researching a company isn’t just to look good in your cover letter. It’s also an important part of you figuring out whether it’s a place you want to work at.

Typing the company’s name into Google is a great way to start, but then go beyond that; find out if they have a blog or a presence on social media (but hold off on requesting anyone to “connect” or “be your friend”).

Not only should you get a strong sense of what the company does, but also what the company culture is like. Do your goals align with theirs? Would working for this company be mutually beneficial?

Cover letter crime 2: Writing a generic cover letter

A generic cover letter that you’ve sent out to multiple employers is another way to get your email and résumé sent straight to the hiring manager’s little trash icon.

“I’ll get letters where the student/recent graduate will go on and on about how they want experience from a professional environment but they never mention what it is we professionally do here. And a lot of the time they won’t address us at the beginning of their letter. Starting the email with a ‘hello!’ or ‘hey there!’ makes me think you’ve just been sending out these letters to every recording studio and aren’t actually interested in what we do here.”

What to do instead: First of all, think of your cover letter as your pitch about why you should be hired to work for this particular company; not just any company that’s hiring. Just check out the advice Matt Baum has for us in “How to Write a Cover Letter that Doesn’t Suck.” Your cover letter will also be much more compelling if you pain-spot and identify how hiring you can specifically help THEM.

Cover letter crime 3: Only talking about what the internship/job will do for YOU

Remember that in your cover letter you’re trying to convince the company that you’ll be an asset to THEIR team; not the other way around.

“From our perspective, we want someone who is excited and willing to help us out with what we do here. It’s not about what we can do for you but what you can do for us. I received a cover letter recently that just went on and on about how working for us would provide him with so many opportunities. He made no mention of how he could apply his skills to the work that went on here. It made it seem like he was only interested in making connections with higher-up people.”

What to do instead: Make sure that you make it clear to the employer what you’re able to offer.

If you’re in a business or finance field, you might want to consider drafting something similar to the company’s needs / your qualifications list as shown in Vivian Giang’s post, “7 Steps to Writing a Cover Letter that Will Actually Get You an Interview.”

As pointed out in the comments section, it might not be the best format for a more creative position like content marketing or social media. Check out what social media expert Ben Castelli has to say about a social media cover letter and résumé.

Don’t get sent to “job search jail” for committing these cover letter crimes. Make sure you’re doing your research, customizing your cover letters, and showing how your skills will benefit the employer. Your cover letter is often the first contact you have with your potential employer. Make sure it’s working for you, not against you.

Homework time! Thinking about applying for a job? Explore your options on AfterCollege and start researching different companies. When you’ve found a few that really interest you, start drafting your cover letters. Check out Danny Rubin’s post about using personal experiences in your cover letter. Take a look at the cover letter teardown section of the AfterCollege Blog for more examples of what employers are looking for in a cover letter and résumé.


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